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Intel invests $100 million in wireless firm

The giant chipmaker will invest $100 million in Symbol Technologies as the companies jointly build wireless networking products for businesses.

    Intel said it will make a $100 million investment in Symbol Technologies as the pair announced plans today to jointly build wireless networking products for businesses.

    Intel and Symbol will develop technology that will allow companies, as well as schools and health care facilities, to build wireless networks that will let users of laptops and Internet-enabled handheld devices to move around their offices and stay connected to the Internet and corporate networks.

    With today's move, the two companies are joining established players Lucent Technologies and Proxim, as well as newer entrants such as 3Com and Cisco Systems, in the crowded but still emerging wireless market.

    Their goal is to give people access to email and the Web regardless of where they are located--a conference room, airport, even a hotel. Analyst firm Cahners In-Stat predicts the market will grow from $750 million in revenue in 1999 to $2.2 billion in 2004.

    Similar to technology 3Com recently released, Intel and Symbol plan to build wireless networking kits. Technology will include PC networking cards that have radio transmitters and receivers built-in, and a wireless hub--affixed to a ceiling or wall--that connects the wireless technology to a regular wired network.

    The technology will support a wireless standard called 802.11B, which is being supported by Lucent, 3Com, Cisco and others. Intel has a separate, but similar wireless effort for consumers. Intel is building a wireless kit for home networks that will support a different wireless standard called HomeRF.

    For Symbol, executives said the agreement today will allow the company to expand its current wireless business. Symbol makes wireless bar-code scanners and mobile devices used by warehouse employees, health care workers and teachers. For example, some hospitals use Symbol's wireless handheld devices so doctors and nurses can have instant access to patient information.

    With its $100 million investment, Intel executives said it will own a 1.5 percent stake in Symbol.